Honor Play review: Perfect blend of style and substance in midrange segment

Honor Play
Chinese smartphone maker Huawei’s sub-brand Honor recently launched the Honor Play, with top innards, premium metallic design, dual rear cameras with artificial intelligence for automatic scene selection and notch-based screen.

The Honor Play is an interesting component of the brand’s midrange offerings for two reasons. First, priced at Rs 19,999 for the base model with 4GB RAM, the phone is the cheapest Huawei and Honor-branded device with the company’s flagship Kirin 970 system-on-chip (SoC), similar to processor that powers the Rs 60,000 Huawei P20 Pro. Second, it is a smartphone with which Huawei has debuted GPU Turbo technology to apparently improve the phone’s graphic performance.

On paper, the Honor Play looks like a power-packed midrange product. But does it in real life perform that way? Let’s find out:

Design and display

Most of the current-generation Honor smartphones boast a glass design, but not Honor Play. The phone has a metallic back that may look conventional but is highly usable. The metallic design gives it a solid grip and does away with the need to regularly clean fingerprints. Weighing 176 g, the phone is a little heavy. Overall, the design looks retro but premium. Everything, including volume rocker keys and eject able SIM tray, fits perfectly.

The front is covered by a 6.3-inch fullHD+ screen with a notch on top for front camera, notifications LED, earpiece and sensors. The glass on top of the screen is curved from edges that blends seamlessly in the metallic chassis. The display has good colours and contrast, but the brightness is a little weak. It is reflective and has satisfactory sunlight legibility, but it shows some shift in colours when looked from angles.


The Kirin 970 processor that powers the Honor Play has been around for more than a year and is due for an update. This could be one reason why the company brought it to the midrange Honor Play, which will compete with Qualcomm Snapdragon 660-based mobile devices. The phone comes in two RAM variants – 4GB and 6GB – and boots Google Android 8.1 out of the box, covered under the EMUI 8.2 user interface. It features GPU Turbo technology for boost in graphic performance.

The phone handles processor-intensive apps without breaking sweat and continues to work without slowing down. The user interface is swift and smooth. But, it shares the downsides of other current-generation Honor and Huawei devices. The user interface is far from stock. It is loaded with customisation options, but that might not suit everyone.

Speaking of audio output, the phone’s speaker seems a little weak and that is a major downside.


The Honor Play has an AI-based dual camera set-up on the back and a singular camera sensor on the front. The rear camera features 16-megapixel primary sensor paired with a 2MP depth-sensing lens for artificial bokeh mode and portrait shots. The front camera also features a 16MP lens for selfies.

As for the image quality, the rear camera takes detailed photographs and also supports electronic image stabilisation (EIS), along with artificial image stabilisation (AIS), for stable shots and videos. These features come handy during low-light conditions. The phone also gets AI mode in which it automatically recognises the scene and changes the settings accordingly.

The front camera is good for selfies and supports the portrait mode with lighting effects. However, the feature is not polished. Overall, the cameras in Honor Play are nothing extraordinary but among the best in the midrange segment.


From price to specifications and performance, the Honor Play ticks all the right boxes. The phone is a power-packed one in the midrange segment. It might not be the best looking smartphone, with a metallic build, but it has everything else that a flagship device does. The phone’s camera could have been better with a monochrome and RGB sensor set-up. However, given the price segment, it has a good balance of price, features and specifications.